Afrotheria facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsAfrotheria
Temporal range: Palaeocene - Recent
|1.Orycteropus afer 2.Dugong dugon 3.Rhynchocyon petersi 4.Trichechus sp. 5.Chrysochloridae sp. 6.Procavia capensis 7.Loxodonta africana 8.Tenrec ecaudatus|
Afrotheria (from Latin Afro- "of Africa" + theria "wild beast") is a clade of mammals, the living members of which belong to groups that are either currently living in Africa or of African origin: golden moles, elephant shrews, tenrecs, aardvarks, hyraxes, elephants, sea cows, and several extinct clades.
Most groups share little or no superficial resemblance, and their similarities have only become known in recent times because of genetics and molecular studies. Many groups are found mostly or exclusively in Africa, reflecting the fact that Africa was an island continent from the early Cenozoic until around 25 million years ago when the Tethys Sea shrank.
Many surviving members of Afrotheria appear to have a high risk of extinction (perhaps related to the large size of many). Species loss within this already small group would mean a particularly great loss of genetic and evolutionary diversity.
While most extant species assigned to Afrotheria live in Africa, some such as the Indian elephant and three of the four sirenian species occur elsewhere; many of these are also endangered. Prior to the Quaternary extinction event, proboscideans were present on every continent of the world except Australia and Antarctica. Hyraxes lived in much of Eurasia as recently as the end of the Pliocene.
The common ancestry of these animals was not recognized until the late 1990s. Continuing work on the molecular and morphological diversity of afrotherian mammals has provided ever increasing support for their common ancestry. Relations between the various afrotherian orders are still being studied. On the basis of molecular studies, elephants and manatees appear to be related, and likewise elephant shrews and aardvarks.
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